With Shane Victorino set to begin a rehab assignment on Saturday, the Boston Red Sox outfield is due for a shakeup. The glut of outfielders includes Daniel Nava, Grady Sizemore, Jackie Bradley Jr., Jonny Gomes and Mike Carp. While Sizemore looks settled in center field, the rest is up for debate. This is the third in a series of articles.
Position: Left field/DH – right fielder in the nominal sense but not much help at Fenway.
- Relative on-base prowess — career OBP of .335 is 91 points higher than his batting average.
- Good pop off the bench — averages a home run every 20 at-bats for his career.
- Manny Ramirez-like defense.
Contract: Second year of two-year/$10 million pact
Minor League Options: No
The Case Against:
When Coco Crisp charged James Shields during a Sox/Rays game in 2008, Gomes, then a Ray, took some liberties, “cheap shots,” you might say, to a fallen Crisp. I couldn’t stand the guy. But a lot of baseball is rooting for laundry, and once Gomes donned a Red Sox uniform, I knew I was going to have to embrace him and the two-year, $10 million contract Ben Cherington lavished on the backup outfielder. I listened to the arguments for Gomes, mostly centered around him being a great teammate and a winner, then watched in shock as the Red Sox bonded into a tight-knit, beard tugging unit and went on to win the World Series. It worked.
Gomes also worked nicely in a platoon with Daniel Nava last year, posting an OBP of .344 with 13 home runs. But the holes were glaringly apparent in the postseason, as he hit .167 in an inexplicable 48 postseason plate appearances while Nava languished on the bench. Many theorized that manager John Farrell decided Gomes was his good luck charm, and though he struggled at the plate and was an adventure in left, the gnome-like protector of the Fenway wall somehow rallied the team to win. The Duck Boat ride at the end meant Farrell generally avoided scrutiny for deploying a bench player with a .167 average in the most important games of the season.
This year, Gomes has scuffled to a .194/.318/.306 start in 44 plate appearances and committed an error in the outfield. While Nava’s line and defense have been equally unsavory and the sample size isn’t great, the return of Victorino does raise the question: who stays and who goes?
When you look around the dugout, you see a dynamic talent (Bradley) who will eventually be a starting Major League outfielder. Sizemore is looking like his old self and seems to have a grasp on the center field job. Nava and Carp have the ability to play more than one position; “Ironsides” (Gomes’ nickname, in addition to “Hacksaw”) has an iron glove. Carp is also younger; Nava is too and both are cheaper than Gomes. Gomes is the 33-year old backup outfielder making $5 million who isn’t hitting.
Maybe Jonny Gomes is such a good guy that he helps the club win with his intangibles. But I don’t recall Kevin Millar pushing the ’05 Red Sox over the top. Unless Ben Cherington can interest another team in Gomes’ bearded sorcery and right-handed pop, he’ll be here through the end of the season. There’s still time to turn it around, and it could wind up being fine, but right now, other players are more deserving of the spot.